Typhoon Haiyan Recovery; First Impression

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

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“It looked like a bomb went off.” Andrew Rosauer explains, leaning forward on his make shift folding table desk. Andrew is the World Vision Recovery Director for Typhoon Haiyan. While others flee disaster zones, or watch on screens from the safety of their homes, Andrew has always gone straight to the chaos. He has been working disaster relief for over 20 years, most recently in South Sudan, and leaves for Syria early next year.

While chatting in his third floor office in Tacloban City and gazing out over palm trees and bustling streets it is hard to imagine the scene only one year ago.

Tacloban City is the largest city on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, or as the locals call it, Typhoon Yolanda, was the largest recorded typhoon to ever hit this region. The Philippines are a dizzying puzzle of islands and bays. The people make their livelihood primarily through fishing and the farming of rice and coconut. And although many were aware the storm was coming the emergency preparedness was inadequate against this super typhoon.

Strong winds ripped apart the simply constructed homes. Locals explain the biggest issue for those making their living from the sea and who live right at the waters edge was the unexpected seven foot storm surge Yolanda delivered. It terrifyingly swept away life, property, and everything in its path.

6,100 people lost their lives during Typhoon Haiyan, with over 1000 people still missing. Andrew expresses surprise the numbers were so low crediting the government for getting many out of harm’s way. However, it is the estimated 13 million dollars in damage and the 14 million people affected that have left an obvious mark and a permanent wound on this peaceful island.

Andrew works disaster relief in some of the hardest places in the world. He has seen people at their darkest times of desperation, loss, and pain. “The Filipinos have a desire to do it themselves. They want to work hard and they want to help each other. Their spirit has made recovery efforts go very well. We are able to do things here we cannot do in other places. We are in the communities and constantly talking to the people about what they need and what works and how we can do it better.”

My first impression of Tacloban is one of introspection. I am moved by the visceral sense of peace, faith, and hope amidst the shells of structures that once were homes or shops—amidst the stories of unthinkable and tremendous loss.

While driving to dinner the area’s grounding faith is evidenced. At dusk our small van creeps through a narrow road in the slum next to where we are staying. I see a group of people gathering tight against a building. As we pass, a man standing behind a table set up in the doorway raises his arms – it is the eucharist.

Today my team heads into the field to meet more of these kind-hearted and faithful people and to hear stories of their courageous lives of resilience.

I am in the Philippines with World Vision USA and a group of writers and bloggers to cover the ongoing emergency response and recovery to Typhoon Haiyan.

Adventure With a Mission. My Favorite Kind.

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

It’s here. I’m just about to head to Chicago O’hare to embark on an adventure with a World Vision team of bloggers, writers, and other members of the press. This adventure is my favorite kind. For starters, I am flying to a destination I have never traveled to before, Tacloban, an island in the Philippines. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures has always been an innate joy of mine — maybe really a need. I love to travel in general, however, what compels me this trip to fly for over a day and leave my family is it’s unique mission. I’m visiting this region to talk to, and to see for myself, what life is like for mothers and children and families just like my own who survived with nothing but their lives from Typhoon Yolanda.

Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, on Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) created widespread devastation in some of the poorest areas in the Philippines, claiming the lives of at least 6,300 people, with more than 1,000 people still reported as missing. It was one of the largest storms ever recorded.

Overall, 14.1 million people were affected, 5.9 million of this number being children. And an alarming 4.1 million people have been displaced.  1.1 million homes were destroyed. World Vision is one of the leading humanitarian agencies responding to the destruction caused by the typhoon. World Vision’s goal is to strengthen the resilience and self-recovery of typhoon-affected communities, with a focus on children. To date, World Vision has reached more than 766,000 people. By the end of the response, WV will have reached more than 1,000,000 beneficiaries with much needed aid.

Quick World Vision facts:

• More than 760,000 people have been reached, to date

• More than 57,000 people have participated in cash-for-work programs

• 51,000 people have benefited from temporary shelter kits

• 26,000 beneficiaries have benefited from tools and medical supplies at local health facilities around nutritional assessment • Equipment for obstetric and maternal care has also been provided to health facilities, so far assisting close to 5,000 people

• More than 3,300 people have benefited from extensive repair and reconstruction work to health centers and stations

• 1,500 people have benefited from livelihoods training, another 13,500 planned in coming months

• Close to 900 of the most vulnerable have had new homes constructed

• In the relief phase, more than 890 adults were taught the principles of psychological first aid, to be able to provide support for those experiencing distress

Thanks for reading and for following along with me as I explore this wounded and recovering area of the world. I am sure I will see things that will break my heart and things that will cause me distress as I am confronted with crippling need. I suspect I will also be surprised with a bit of beauty, joy, and friendship.

Q & A with author Margaret Ann Philbrick

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Yesterday I finished reading the debut novel by author Margaret Philbrick and I am happy to recommend it as a touching and inspiring summer read. I am honored to be in a Redbud Writers Guild manuscript group with Margaret and I had the unique opportunity to see this project in various forms.

It is always moving to see a project birthed. Margaret is an inspiring writer and person. Enjoy her interview below and be sure to read A Minor, A Novel of Love, Music and Memory. 

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1. What inspired you to spend four years working on A Minor?

My children all play the piano, and our oldest son’s teacher requested that a parent sit in on the lessons and take notes. We would then review with him during the following week. As he moved on to college, I was left with a notebook full of wisdom that needed to be shared, but I didn’t have the framework for an idea. While I was having lunch in South Haven, Michigan, I started talking to my husband about what it would be like for a concert pianist to lose his or her memory. That question took me on a one year research journey to find the answer.

2. How did you go about your research?

I started with Oliver Sacks because he is one of the most well-known neurologists in the field. I read his books and watched YouTube videos of him talking about his patients.  His work led me to many other experts and their writings. Once I completed that investigation, I embarked on several more months of research into the life of a concert pianist. Howard Reich’s biography of Van Cliburn was one of the most helpful. Also, I interviewed many people who had been touched by dementia and Alzheimer’s. Once I assessed all the research, I knew there was a story to mine out of that mountain.

3.  Are you a musician yourself?

While in high school, I was a serious flute student and was accepted into a college conservatory, but my  parents were moving toward a  divorce at the time and I wanted to get as far away from their situation as possible. Instead, I became an English Literature major in Texas, which is why I have wrinkles today. I spent a lot of time lying out in the sun and reading novels.

4. Can you name a few of your favorites?

I tend to think about this question as a list of the books I wish I would have written. The first ones that come to mind are: Jane Eyre, Georg Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, all books by Milan Kundera and Gabriel García Márquez, and recently my neighbors’ books—The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin and Sing For Me by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. I also adored Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For teaching, I read a lot of classic YA novels. My favorite this year was Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow.

5.  Talk about your creative process. How did you write the book?

I’m a pretty insecure writer having been a Lit major and constantly reading books that I feel are beyond my own creative abilities. I actually think this is a good thing because I relied on the discipline of prayer before I sat down to write each day, knowing I couldn’t do this project alone. I’d spend time asking the Lord for creativity, original thought, wisdom, memory, whatever I needed to write the next ten pages. I’m disciplined when I get into a project, so I would write every day and then revise the next day what I wrote the day before and then move on. I always set goals for myself—another ten pages, finish the chapter. As I’d move along, another piece of research would be required, and I’d go off on a tangent for a day or so and then come back to the writing.

6. Did you use the notebook from your son’s piano lessons?

Oh, definitely. In many ways the voice of the main character is the voice of my son’s teacher. There are aspects of her in the work that I’m sure she’ll recognize when she reads it, like her clogs. She always wears these precarious, high-heeled wooden clogs. I’ve never known anyone to wear shoes like this in the summer with bare feet. She’s a fascinating conundrum.

7.  Your book has some unique features, like a Discussion Guide in the back and recorded music in the ereader that anyone can hear while they are reading and live links to other resources. How did all that happen?

Well, I love Koehler Books because they are open to thinking outside the box of what a book can be. When I created A Minor, I thought about the music first. If you were only listening to the story, what would it sound like? Then I outlined all the musical works, and I’d listen to them while writing. It was important that the music told the story as well if not better than the words. Eventually, the idea came to me that I wanted the reader to have the same experience. Koehler Books was open to partnering with me in creating that experience. My husband, who is a lawyer, was an enormous help as well. The Discussion Guide is for the classroom or book clubs. As a teacher, it comes naturally for me to ask questions so people can learn more. The live links send the reader to the places where they can get help with memory issues in their own family or even for themselves.

8.  One of your questions in the Discussion Guide addresses the importance of the protagonist maintaining the innocence of her protégé even though she could have taken advantage of him. Why did you decide to go that way and do you think American culture has lost its innocence?

Clare knows that the purity of Clive’s imagination is tantamount to his artistic interpretation of the works; it is a competitive advantage he has and a winsome one. She chose to not compromise that advantage. Yes, the loss of innocence in American culture is negatively affecting the power of our imagination and ultimately our innovation, which has always been an edge for us. When everything is openly revealed it hinders our ability to create, to make pictures for ourselves and interpret through the lens of what we know and experience. Dean Koontz has just written a novel that addresses this beautifully. It’s called Innocence. Making the choice to maintain one’s innocence and even more altruistically, the innocence of another, is expanding the pure heart of the child in all of us, and that is a great gift.

9. What were some of the disappointments along the way to getting published?

Oh, all the “noes” that had been so close to being “yeses”—I never cared about the folks who were too busy to respond, but the ones where I had provided the entire manuscript and even changed things upon their request all to be told “no” months down the road. Those were tough, but I always believed in the story and knew there was a home out there waiting to bring it to life. I remember sitting on the edge of Lake Michigan, crying and praying that God would give my story a home. A few weeks later, He did.

10. Is it hard to raise a family and write a novel?

I can say my writing drives my kids crazy. My youngest son calls me the “bat.” Sometimes he comes home from a piano lesson, and I’ll be at my desk in the dark, writing by the light of the screen, too engaged to turn on any lights in the house. I try to write when they’re not at home, during the school day. It’s definitely not good for them if they feel like my “callings” are taking the place of them. Sometimes I’ve had to drop everything or step away from a project entirely, but raising children is a very short season and hopefully, I can write for the rest of my life.

11.  What would your advice be to someone hoping to write their first novel or write anything for that matter?

Know your purpose, why you are writing what you are writing, and stay tethered to that vision. Write for the joy of creating and do not allow yourself to think about publishing, which is such a distraction, until you’re done. Then let your work simmer for a while. Take long walks and think about it.  Do you still love it? If you do, pray and turn it over to God. Ask Him to reveal the next step and then trust him to do so.  In the Redbud Writers Guild, we embrace the truth of Psalm 37:5:

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.”

Go at it with God. Writing is too lonely to do alone.

A Free Give-Away and Making Music for Good

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

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While growing up I loved music. I sang along with every album and cassette. I collected new and interesting artists. I was the master of the mix tape. I followed new artists, classic artists, alternative and punk bands. My first album was Billy Joel Glass Houses (I still have it) and my first CD was (bizarrely) Bing Crosby’s Christmas album. Yet I loved theater and I sat in front of the record player (yes, vinyl) reading and singing along to Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Oklahoma, South Pacific. 

The first concert I attended was Amy Grant Straight Ahead tour. The concert was at The Odeum in Villa Park, IL. I was in eighth grade and I knew every word to every song and sang along at the top of my lungs. I was *that* girl who loved all the new Christian rock becoming popular in the 1980’s.

This past year has been a blur of activity with family and life yet in the midst of it all an album of praise, thanks, journey, and honesty has emerged. A quiet, life-long desire to create music became a reality. It was slow and easy. Writing songs with a friend and recording at a studio tucked in the heart of my home town. There was much grace and humor. It was a uniquely creative process and I recieved the *cool* experience of being an Independent Artist.

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I am deeply indebted to my friend and co-producer, Bill Acuna. Bill is the co-author, guitarist, musician, and artistic mind behind the album. We collaborated on lyrics and melody and then Bill masterfully created each song, building the arrangement and creating the layers of art.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to author two books and a third forthcoming with Intervarsity Press. I have been able to publish books about what burns in my heart — educating myself and others about injustices in the world and what the everyday person can do to make a difference.

This year Bill and friends enabled me to create music that is inspired by these same things — what burns in my heart, my faith, and my work in justices causes such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic is sub-Saharan Africa and the atrocity of modern-day slavery. I believe we all can make a difference in the world no matter who we are or where we are and I write song to inspire change.

I know the challenge of managing a home and the desire to make a difference for those who are suffering. As a full-time mother of three, I have journeyed from insular suburban world into the arena of global advocacy, writing books and making music. Using the power of story, I hope my music inspires people everywhere to start right where they are and make a difference.

This is a simple album and from the heart. The collection of 12 original songs cover topics ranging from family, God, dreams, broken hearts, doubt, faith and thanksgiving. Enjoy!

GIVE AWAY: Leave a comment below on the blog or inbox me on Facebook to enter a drawing for a free CD. Thanks for reading and listening. Together we make a difference!

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Writing With a Broken Heart

Monday, August 5th, 2013

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“God loves YOU!” The large purple billboard seemed to yell at me as I drove past. An unexpected addition to the Northwoods roadside. Normally, I might have smiled or ignored it entirely but today the radio also seemed to be trying to get my attention with this simple yet often unfathomable imperative: God loves you.

I teared up and thanked God making a mental note to add this experience to my chapter entitled “Signposts.” Sometimes God is mysterious, silent and seems hidden and sometimes He is literal and in our faces — if we are looking.

The past few weeks I have been tucked away at our cabin in the Northwoods with the intention of working on the manuscript for my third book. I have organized it. Reorganized it. Read the already written chapters over and over and I have yet to add one new word to the book. I feel paralyzed. Not from writer’s block or fear or busyness (I truly have nothing to do here but the chores I create to do).

What surfaced while receiving God’s love driving alone through the deep woods — I am paralyzed by a broken heart.

This year our family has taken many hits. We can’t seem to get to safe harbor, the wide-open spaces of calm with no crisis or conflict. I’m not a young woman. I know life is hard for everyone. I’ve seen what life is like for women and children in unthinkable poverty and disease, abuse and oppression. I am no stranger to life on life’s terms. I understand storms will violently hit and we must weather them. I know these storms do not last forever. There are still waters ahead. Yet even while nestled in the woods next to a calm lake the roar of life’s stresses seems unrelenting. In my husband’s and my life, and in our children’s. We are thankful we have each other and we know under it all, all things pass, that in Him all things are made new.

Yet we are only human and sometimes, if not our faith, our resilience in faith, is challenged. We are not quite there and we are still on the journey — climbing the mountain, fighting the Orks, having boulders thrown at us, getting lost while darkness and storms threaten us and those we love. We’ve lost trusted friends and journeymen. Pain, abandonment, betrayal and death are real and the journey is hard.

I’m a housewife and a writer. A mom and a career volunteer. On the outside my life may not look as dramatic as Bilbo Baggin’s or Harry Potter’s yet is not that the point of those wonderful tales? The journey rages within and it must continue. As those myths help internalize, I have come to believe the secret to continuing, to keep moving, is to remember where I am going. What is my quest? Who is with me? Who has left me and why?

Ultimately, it is my journey. Only I choose to keep me moving, wounded and tired, but still climbing. I challenge myself to believe the signs when I am told God loves me. I gather my shaky faith and knees and get up… again. In pain, I take another step despite feeling paralyzed and despite believing I have nothing to say from such a broken place. I don’t slay an Ork or fight off a Dementor. I sit my bottom in the chair and I learn to write with a broken heart.

 

 

 

Looking For Water From A Deeper Well

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

“I do not think happiness has its source in the heart at all. It arises in a much more interior part, like something of which the springs are very deep; I think this must be the center of the soul.” –Teresa of Avila, Interior Castles

This summer I am beginning the process. I am starting the manuscript for my third book. The content of this new project will take me to places I have never been before. I suspect the creation of this book will challenge and stretch me as a writer and storyteller as never before.

I have tried to be silent with this project, allowing it to germinate and to form itself. It is not something I wish to force or be contrived. On some level I have a healthy fear of this project and the honesty it will require. I have set the intention to dig deep, find the book, and let it flow.

Years ago I had a dream. In it I am walking over a hill. The kind of rise only created in the subconscious. I am nowhere and yet I am not lost. There is nothing and no one around. I am alone in the foggy, colorless scene and I hear a voice calling my name with great anticipation saying, “Shayne, Shayne, it’s drawing! It is coming! It is Ancient!”

I hungrily peer over the rise from the ground on which I am standing and I see it: a deep crevice in the ground. I see a well.

If dreams are messengers, I woke wondering the message of this dream and immediately consulted my Bible and the passage of Isaac camping in the Valley of Gerar. The ancient text tells the story of wells Isaac’s father, Abraham, dug during his lifetime. Historically wells represent ownership and rights to the land. Although the Philistines had pledged loyalty to Abraham, out of jealousy, they maliciously fill in the wells, and attack by throwing dirt and debris into them causing distress.

In Genesis, upon moving back to the Valley of Gerar, Isaac redigs the wells of his father. With each well he reclaims and cleans out he finds fresh, spring water and has hope to settle and be at peace. Yet, with the first well the shepherds of Gerar quarrel with Isaac’s men so Isaac names this well Esek (Quarrel).

Isaac moves on. His servants dig a second well and again find spring water but there is a fight over this one, too. Isaac names it Sitnah (Accusation or Hatred).

Isaac again chooses to move on and to not fight and his men dig a third well. There is no quarreling or accusation attached to this well and so he names it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces) saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.”

God appeared to him that very night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I am with you. I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant.”

These verses caught my spiritual imagination. Could my dream have been directing me to the truth of finding an ancient, interior well deep within me named Wide-Open Spaces?

In the scriptures wells, or “springs of living water” as they were called, were a sign of God’s grace and blessing. Water represented life itself. Did my dream reveal such life? The reality of an interior place of no quarreling or accusations. A place of promise, blessing and deep peace. A wide-open space in the center of my soul.

As I embark on this journey of finding the book inside me, I am reminded of my dream and these ancient stories and promises. I am reminded of the quote from Teresa of Avila. I don’t want to write a “happy” book from my heart. I want to write a book originating in the center of my soul. I want to throw off fear, quarrels, strife and dig farther letting truth and honesty flow in my words. Healing and peace. Groundedness and intention.

As I write this summer I want clean, living water. I want to throw off external things and people that clog the inner well, my interior spring, the center of me where there is no fear and where God blesses.

Or as Emmy Lou Harris sings in one of my favorite songs, “I am looking for water from a deeper well.”

*Originally posted at Redbud Writers Guild blog. Visit our site and meet all our members!

What Does Steubenville Tell Us: We Are No Better

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

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Worldwide today:

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  •  Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

 

I can still see her black and blue face and the small baby in her arms clutching her ratty sweater. She was standing outside the Coordinated Response Center in Zambia. I was visiting her small village with World Vision. I was in Zambia learning about their programs that empower women.

 

The center is run in partnership with World Vision and other government and local organizations. This small building, and the people and resources it provides for the community is needed because, as it was explained, in Zambia violence against women is acceptable. As one of the women explained, “If your husband does not beat you people wonder if he loves you.”

 

In Zambia and other parts of the world, when women are raped – and if they go to the police station to report the crime, women are often mocked and raped by the very men she went to for assistance. The response center is a safe place for women to not only get help but to courageously confront what happened to them and fight for a different culture in Zambia.

 

I will never forget this young mother’s face. She was standing near the entrance to the center. Actually, she wasn’t really standing at all. She was cowering. It was unmistakable that my presence was violent to her. Walking past her shame, into the building — a foreigner, a stranger, no words exchanged – just our eyes catching and her burning look of shame and humiliation. And rage.

 

As a mother of three young children, I have spent over a decade educating myself about the reality and affects of poverty, disease, oppression and violence against women in developing countries. I have woken up to what life is like for my counterparts in the world.

 

Enter Ohio. The state next to me. Enter the news media coverage of this disgusting and abusive crime. I watch sad and enraged. I listen to the father of one of the sons defend saying there was “reasonable doubt.” But we all know. The judge reasonably listened, considered evidence, and ruled accordingly. We know this happens everyday. All over the world. Women are abused, mocked, used, attacked, and betrayed. By people they know. And their friends forsake them. Mock them. Threaten them. The victim is put on trial and demanded to carry the shame. This unique evil is the global dynamic of rape.

 

So why this story? Why has Ohio caught our collective news media imagination? Because of the ages of the children? The social media component of videos and texts? Why are we collectively worked up about this specific incident? Don’t get me wrong. We should be as it hits close to home.

 

But let’s be honest, we should be vocal and enraged, compassionate and lit up about every case of rape in the world. As Christians, as world leaders, as politicians, as ordinary citizens we turn away from this issue because we don’t want to deal with it. We feel powerless and give in to fear and apathy. We let the unthinkable happen day after day to innocent victims– from domestic violence to the child sex trafficking booming business.

 

Stuebenville reminds us this could be our children, our town, our families. It shouts from every news outlet the blaring and courageous truth that when it comes to rape we must always come down on the right side of compassion and justice.

 

At least, that is my prayer.

 

*Statistics via UN Entity for Gender Equality